Macbeth By William Shakespeare, Influence Of The Witches And Supernatural In Macbeth

1024 words - 4 pages

Macbeth is thought to have been first performed in 1606, for the visit of the Danish king to James I. It is therefore likely that not only was James I's Scottish ancestry reflected in the play, but also his interest in witchcraft and the supernatural. In order to please the king, Shakespeare made the influence of the supernatural element on both the course of Macbeth's downfall and the dramatic tension of the play significant.The fact that the Witches open the play is not only visually effective on stage, but it also foreshadows the importance of their role - and that of the supernatural. They combine to chant "Fair is foul, and foul is fair;/ Hover through the fog and filthy air." The paradox of "foul" and "fair" introduces the theme that everything is not as it seems in Macbeth, a theme borne out through the deceptive behaviour of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, and also through the equivocation of the Apparitions later in the play. The importance of the Witches' influence is directly signposted early in the play when Macbeth's words 'So foul and fair a day I have not seen', echo theirs. We are left wondering if they have already placed a supernatural charm on him. The "fog' in the chant is also dramatically interesting for the audience as it contradicts the opening stage direction, "Thunder and lightning", as fog and lightning are conflicting weather systems that do not appear together.This strange atmosphere is intriguing to the audience and foreshadows the strange occurrences discussed by Ross and the Old Man in Act II, Scene iv when a mousing owl killed a hawk and Duncan's horses are said to have eaten each other. Shakespeare uses the pathetic fallacy of these supernatural occurrences to bring out the idea that Scotland is sick, due to Macbeth's killing of the king upsetting the Elizabethan chain of being. This idea is reinforced by Malcolm's words that "It [Scotland] weeps, it bleeds; and each new day a gash/ Is added to her wounds", one of many such personifications of ailing Scotland following Macbeth's regicide. This image is not only interesting, but it is an idea which would have pleased Shakespeare's royal audience.In terms of suspense, the Witches and other supernatural elements are also very influential. The Witches' prophecies revealed through their greetings "All hail Macbeth, hail to thee, Thane of Cawdor!/ All hail Macbeth, that shalt be king hereafter!" can be said to have been the catalyst to ignite Macbeth's "Vaulting ambition". The fact that the he receives the title Thane of Cawdor so soon after their predictions, causes him to wonder that their "supernatural soliciting" may turn out to be true. The interest for the audience, especially revealed through his soliloquies, is whether Macbeth will "yield to that suggestion/ Whose horrid image doth unfix [his] hair". It is Lady Macbeth who, in Act I, scene vii persuades him to do the deed, partly through rhetorical questions, such as "We fail?"; the theatre-goers are left wondering...

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